This year has been a major change in the way students are learning. Grade school, middle school, high school, and even into college, students are having to learn differently than before. Virtual distance learning was something only a few students used for various reasons. 2020 has proven to be a significant challenge to change how and where students learn.
With the change to virtual school, planning for classes has become more of a challenge. The best plans also require a significant change in discipline from both educator and student on each side of virtual learning. Teachers could use in-person body language and face-to-face contact with students to judge attentiveness to the subject. Students could also easily ask questions in the classroom. Virtual school is adding obstacles to learning that weren’t a problem before. As we move forward into the Autumn session of 2020, and into the early months of 2021, better planning and a different discipline strategy will be keys to being successful with virtual school.
Planning for Virtual School
If we were to go back five years ago, before any mention of a pandemic and virtual school, most educators would be comfortable with completing a lesson plan based on a school subject, a textbook, and any study guides that were available as a supplement. The class schedule would be straight forward. It would be somewhat the same as the year before. With the addition of virtual school as the main teaching format, the lesson plans now need to include videography with either pre-recorded lesson plans or a live feed.
On the student’s side of the screen is a similar story. Students are used to attending a class and receiving instruction. The venue has now changed from an in-person classroom to a home setting. It may be their own bedroom, a spare room in the house, or perhaps the kitchen or living room table. Their main focus is their teacher on a laptop screen instead of being at the front of the classroom.
There may also be a change in the working environment for one or more parent in the student’s house. They were probably used to leaving the home and commuting to a work setting. That has now possibly become another room in the home, the kitchen table, or maybe the living room table. They have be sharing space with their child or children as they attend virtual school and complete their homework.
Out of these three changed scenarios, planning needs to occur to ensure stability in attending virtual school with success. Each needs to have a designated area for work. The teacher needs a space to teach from, whether that’s a live class or a prerecorded lecture. The students and parents each need a dedicated space to complete their work, even if that is sharing the same area.
Each work space should include the right equipment to complete work. Pens, pencils, a laptop and mouse, or possibly headphones to keep focused on the task at hand. The school may be able to provide a list of recommendations of what should be available for your student depending on the classes they are enrolled in.
All will have a daily schedule that should include breaks. In order to keep your student on a similar timetable to what they would normally attend in school, create a daily schedule that your student can follow every day they have virtual school. It will keep them in the habit without breaking their routines. In between classes you can also have some study breaks that your student can catch up on what else is going on in the world. Check their email, look at social media, or maybe go outside and get some fresh air. The goal is to allow their brain to digest what they just learned in class and rest a little before going to the next subject. This same thought applies to every teacher and parent. They need a steady routine every day, including breaks to keep focus.
And lastly, in the case of planning for virtual school success, these breaks may need to include extra-curricular activities. Students may be used to playing sports, whether e-sports or after school sports, they may be involved in specialized clubs or organizations, or they may just enjoy being outside hiking, biking, or swimming. Whatever they enjoy doing most outside of school, they should try to keep those activities going as best as possible. They need social interaction, and hopefully their favorite activities are still available with virtual school. Parents and teachers should also do the same. Keep a calendar of planned events just as you would if school was conducted on campus, teachers went to the same campus, and parents returned to work at their previous location.
How Discipline Correlates to Virtual School Success
Planning for virtual school success seems to be the easier part. Classes may be at a set time during the day with a weekly schedule. They also may have prerecorded lectures that each student must attend and watch completely. For parents, students, and teachers, discipline is required to ensure that virtual school is attended, work is completed on time, and then feedback is given for the results.
Beyond virtual school, life goes on with other activities involving the family and friends. Students may receive other support at school, such as speech, occupational, or physical therapy, and these services need to continue. It will be up to the school and the parents to ensure that the services will continue during virtual at-home learning. It will take discipline to keep them on the daily or weekly schedule, and to ensure these sessions are attended.
The best scenario for teachers, students, and parents is to keep a structured routine. Everyone has a routine when it comes to school. Teachers are used to preparing lectures and school work, students are used to attending and completing the work, and parents are there to support both outside of work. Virtual school can offer some flexibility to how and when students learn, but a set schedule and structure will help everyone stay disciplined and on time.
A structured routine can also help parents understand how their work day may need to be adjusted to support their children learning at virtual school. Parents can potentially adjust their start, breaks, and end times around the time their children attend virtual school. Parents may also need to schedule frequent feedback sessions with teachers to stay in touch with virtual school results for their students. Once a virtual school routine is determined, it will take discipline to keep on track every day without allowing interruptions to cause distractions.
Remote virtual school may be a new concept this year for students, parents, and some teachers. Everyone may need some time to fully adjust to daily virtual school, from planning lectures, attending the lectures, and completing extra work on time. Planning a set schedule or routine with the right environment will allow discipline to keep everyone focused and progressing as virtual school continues.